Purebreds Are Not So Different From Mutts After All

I love mutts. I love purebreds. I love dogs in general, and I think it’s important to understand just how poorly the lines have been drawn between the two. They are more alike than different.

All dogs, from teensy teacup Chihuahuas to towering Great Danes, belong to the same species, Canis lupis familiaris, and they can all interbreed (has someone ever bred a Chihuahua stud to a Great Dane bitch? Send me a picture if you’ve seen one). A breed of dog has a consistent set of characteristics of appearance and behavior, as defined by a breed club. It is not a scientific designation.

But even these esteemed purebred lines may have once been mutts themselves: Golden retrievers, for example, were originally obtained by crossing spaniel and retriever breeds. Breed the winner of Westminster to the winner of the National Dog show and what do you get? Unless they were the same breed, you get a very expensive mutt.

Dogs evolved alongside man, quite literally hanging around the caveman campfire waiting for scraps. In an astonishing example of how selective breeding works, dogs were bred and selected for different characteristics depending on the needs of the men they served: big fluffy Newfoundlands to stomp through the frigid shores of Canada, aloof Lhasa Apsos to sit alongside royalty and keep them entertained, wily Australian shepherds to run alongside herds of livestock and keep them in line.

To the breed fancier, the fact that you get predictability in the purebred dog is exactly why they are desirable: a person who wants a Labrador because they enjoy the outdoors is not going to be happy with a bulldog who needs to avoid strenuous exercise. Breeds are predictable, and picking a purebred dog usually gives you a reliable idea of its looks and temperament.

Shelter professionals agree that making the proper match between a family and a pet is essential to developing a lifelong bond. While purebred fanciers are looking to breed history for clues as to the dog’s appearance and personality, shelter workers who are placing mutts (or mixed breeds, should you prefer) look to individual dogs for the same information, with very good results.

When I was dog hunting the first time, I said I wanted a Golden. I didn’t really know why other than I met one and he was a great dog. I liked big, nice dogs more than I liked Goldens specifically. After a hopeful e-mail from a technician at the vet school, I ended up with a redbone coonhound instead: a big, nice dog who didn’t shed nearly so much as the Golden I did eventually wind up with. I loved them both equally. I fell for the individual as much as I did the breed and both were perfect for my life at the time.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with liking particular types of animals — there is such a difference between a Jack Russell and a Belgian Malinois that you’d be nuts not to have some sort of preference, based on your own lifestyle. If you’re set on a particular breed, do your research and make sure your dog comes from a reputable breeder. AKC.org can help you find one, and they often have Meet the Breed events at dog shows where you can interact with many different ones.

For those open to either a purebred or a mixed breed, the ASPCA's Meet Your Match program evaluates your interest in specific personality and appearance traits, and then looks to match you with an individual who best fits those characteristics.

Different approaches, same end result: a happy family with the dog who’s right for them.

No matter which type of dog you prefer, I think we can agree this is what we all want, right?

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Today's post was originally published on Pet360

Image: jadimages / Shutterstock

This article originally appeared on petmd.com.